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01/20/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 3"
by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
AMERICAN BASEBALL NEWS
Congress puts Tejada under scope in Steroid Hearing
While members of a congressional committee questioned Major League Baseball’s commissioner and its players’ union chief, their investigation into steroid use also focused attention on 2002 American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Tejada.
Tejada’s name appears 33 times in the Mitchell Report, and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Henry Waxman of California called on the Justice Department to look into whether Tejada lied to congressional staffers when he was questioned in connection with former Baltimore teammate Rafael Pamiero’s perjury trial. Tejada allegedly bought HGH from former Oakland teammate Adam Piatt, and refused to meet with former Senator George Mitchell prior to the release of his report last month. The shortstop signed a free agent contract with Houston in the offseason.
Mitchell testified before the House committee last Tuesday, as did commissioner Bud Selig and Players Union attorney Donald Fehr. Selig told the panel, “Do I wish we could have reacted quicker? Should we have? One could make the case.”
Cardinals and Toronto swap All-Star third basemen
The St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays finally pulled the trigger on a trade of former All-Stars at third base after lengthy talks. The Cards sent 32-year-old Scott Rolen to Toronto for 31-year-old Troy Glaus in a swap of players who’ve become injury-prone in recent seasons.
Rolen has five seasons with 100 or more RBI’s and four years with 30-plus homers, but has only hit 35 bombs the past three campaigns while being hindered by a left shoulder that has required three operations. Rolen hit .265 with 8 homers in 2007, and was constantly at odds with St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa.
Glaus hit 75 home runs between 2005 and 2006 and has knocked out 40 roundtrippers twice, but is coming off a .262 season for the Jays with 20 homers. Last year, SI.com reported Glaus received steroids between 2003 and 2004, but Major League Baseball said it found insufficient evidence for disciplinary action.
Rolen will receive $36 million over the next three years, while Glaus is owed $12 million this year with an $11.5 player option in 2009.
Texas signs Japanese relief pitcher to $3 million deal
The Texas Rangers have added Japanese veteran relief pitcher Kazuo Fukimori to their 40-man roster. The Rangers finalized a two-year, $3 million contract plus a team option for 2010 with the right-hander last week.
Fukimori has spent the past 13 seasons in Japan, going 34-42 with 72 saves and a 3.72 ERA over 377 games, including 47 career starts. He was 4-2 with 17 saves in 34 games for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2007. Fukimori has since undergone surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, but has already been throwing off a mound as is expected to be ready for the 2008 season.
Used extensively in relief since 2003, Fukimori will likely be a set-up man for Texas next season.
CARIBBEAN BASEBALL REPORT
Licey, Cibaenas clinch Caribbean Series berths
The Licey Tigres and Cibaenas Aguilas came out of the Dominican League’s first round round-robin playoff with berths in the league’s final series. More important, both teams will play in next month’s Caribbean Series because the host Dominican Republic will be allowed to send two teams. The off-season demise of the Puerto Rican League created an imbalance of teams in the Caribbean Series, necessitating the addition of a fourth team.
Licey finished the first round of play with an 11-6 record while Cibaenas ended up with a 10-7 mark. Final first round games scheduled for last Thursday night were called off because the championship match-up was already clinched. Henry Mateo of the Oriente Estrellas had the hottest bat in first round play, hitting .400 over 17 games. Nelson Figueroa, who pitched in Taiwan last summer, turned in the best opening round performance among hurlers with a 2-0 record and 0.64 ERA over 14 innings.
The Tigres and Aguilas will open the championship series this week.
Aragua streaks into first-place tie in Venezuelan playoffs
The Venezuelan League’s first round of playoffs headed into its final weekend with the Lara Cardenales and Aragua Tigres tied for first place in the round robin tournament with identical 8-3 records. Aragua, in particular, has been hot with a six-game winning streak propelling the Tigres into their deadlock with Lara.
Speaking of momentum, it would be hard to find a more effective postseason hitter in Caribbean baseball right now than Eliezer Alfonzo of the Oriente Caribes. While Aragua’s Alberto Callaspo leads the playoff batting race with a remarkable .478 average, Alfonzo has made the most of his own .370 mark, drilling seven homers and driving in 15 runs in just 46 at-bats. Felipe Paulino of Margarita has been a ray of light in the Bravos’ 3-8 postseason start with a 1-1 record and a Venezuelan-best 0.82 ERA.
The first round will conclude Monday with the top two teams advancing to the Liga Venezolana finals later in the week.
Mazatlan grabs early lead in Mex Pac semi series with Mochis
Mazatlan has taken a 2-1 lead in their best-of-7 Mexican Pacific League semifinal series with Los Mochis, while the Obregon-Culiacan series is knotted up at two games apiece. After cruising to a four-game sweep over Guasave in the first round, Mazatlan came back from a 3-0 loss to Mochis in their series opener last week to outscore the Caneros by an aggregate 19-3 margin over the next two games to take command in their set. The defending champion Venados have been led offensively by Robert Saucedo’s .458 average and six RBI’s.
Obregon won their first two games over Culiacan before the Tomateros beat the Yaquis in consecutive games to tie their series. Mexican League batting champion Carlos Rivera has swung the big stick this month for Obregon, bashing out a .429 average with two homers in nine games, but as a team, Obregon is hitting .209 in the playoffs. Reds farmhand Justin Lehr has been lights-out, with a 2-0 record and a 0.42 ERA over three starts as the Yaquis have a team ERA of 1.90. Outfielder Luis Suarez leads the Caneros with a .387 average, but has only scored two runs and driven in one more.
The semifinal winners will open the Mex Pac finals later this week.
ASIAN BASEBALL REVIEW
Unicorns facing extinction after KT pulls out of takeover
The Korea Baseball Organization’s Hyundai Unicorns are in danger of disappearing after the telecom giant KT pulled out of plans to take over the troubled franchise. In a recent emergency board meeting, the corporation decided to not pursue the Unicorns 15 days after the KBO announced KT would purchased Hyundai.
The Unicorns are one of eight KBO franchises, but Hyundai has announced it will not sponsor a team in 2008. The automaker is the parent corporation of Kia, which sponsors the KBO Tigers team. Hyundai has until this week to find a new owner or face elimination from the league. Several Unicorns pitchers are expected to find work elsewhere in Korea if the team folds, but position players will have a harder time of it.
The KBO regular season will open in late March this year, earlier than usual due to the Beijing Olympics.
Three players named to Japanese Hall of Fame
A slugger and two pitchers have been selected for the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Former Hiroshima outfielder Koji Yamamoto will be enshrined along with ex-pitchers Tsuneo Horiuchi of the Yomiuri Giants and Seiichi Shima of Wakayama.
Yamamoto played 18 years with the Carp, starting in 1969. He blasted 536 homers and drove in 1,475 runs. He led the Central League in homers four times, collected three RBI titles and won a batting crown in 1975 when he hit .319 to lead Hiroshima to their first pennant. Yamamoto hit cleanup for back to back Japan Series winners in 179 and 1980.
Horiuchi joined the Giants out of high school in 1966 and won the Sawamura Award that year with a 16-2 record and a microscopic 1.39 ERA. He went on to win 203 career games, including 13 years with double-digit win totals and a career-high 26 victories in 1972. He helped Yomiuri win nine straight Japan Series.
Shima pitched no-hitters in both the semifinal and final games of the 1939 national high school championships for Kaiso High of Wakayama. He was killed in action during World War II at age 24.
The addition of the three brings the number of Japanese Hall members to 164.
Cebu Dolphins win Baseball Philippines pennant
The Cebu Dolphins finished a three-game set with a resounding 20-5 win over the Manila Sharks to win the Baseball Philippines Series 2 pennant last month in Manila. The Dolphins won the series, 2 games to 1. Cebu chased Sharks starter Charlie Labrador with two outs in the second inning of the title game after pounding the righty for five runs on six hits and a walk. Labrador had pitched six times over a three-week span for the Philippines in international competition, and was not the same pitcher who beat Manila three times during the regular season.
Miggy Corcuera went 4-for-4 with three runs and two RBI’s to lead the Dolphins as starter Joseph Orillana went the distance. The left-handed Orillana scattered four earned runs and did not walk a batter while turning in his second complete game of the finals. He was named BP Series 2 MVP.
Baseball Philippines plays two Series per year with summer and winter seasons.